The Los Angeles Clippers are making a silent protest of owner Donald Sterling’s purported comments urging a woman to not bring black people to his team’s games.
Los Angeles Clippers players staged a silent protest against owner Donald Sterling before Sunday’s playoff game, while coach Doc Rivers said he isn’t sure what he would have to hear from Sterling to make him want to return next season.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said when asked if there were things he needed to hear from Sterling after an audio tape surfaced of Sterling allegedly making racist remarks to his girlfriend V. Stiviano. “I’m just going to leave it at that.”
The Clippers gathered at center court before a 118-97 Game 4 loss in their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors and took off their Clippers warm-up shirts and left them there. They then warmed up wearing inside-out red shooting shirts that did not display the Clippers name or logo. During the game, players wore black arm or wrist bands and black socks.
River said he wasn’t on-board with the black socks protest, but said he was aware of it and was fine with his players taking the stand.
“I knew about it. I didn’t voice my opinion,” Rivers said after the game. “I wasn’t thrilled about it, to be honest. But if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they want to do.”
During a 45-minute team meeting on Saturday, Clippers player voiced their anger about the tape and discussed various options of protest, including boycotting the game.
“[We] talked as a team about everything,” Chris Paul told ESPN. “Tried to keep internal, everything we decided to do has been together as a team.”
In the Clippers’ locker room before the game, “We are one” was written on the dry-erase board, which was the message players and coaches talked about before taking the court.
“We’re going to be one, everything we do, we do it together,” Paul said. “Stay together, play ball, we worked hard to be where we are, can’t imagine going through this with anyone leading us other than Doc.”
The NBA is investigating, and the league will hold a news conference Tuesday to announce “additional details” regarding the matter.
Portland Trail Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge urged his teammates to follow suit. The Blazers and the visiting Houston Rockets wore black socks during their Sunday night playoff game.
Said Aldridge, who is African-American: “I wanted to do something to support our brothers.”
Sterling was at Game 3 on Thursday night in Oakland, Calif., and was planning to be at Game 4 on Sunday before speaking with the league and agreeing not to attend as it investigated his comments. Sterling’s wife, Rochelle, however, was at Sunday’s game and sat courtside across from the Clippers’ bench.
“I don’t condone those statements and I don’t believe in them,” Rochelle Sterling told ESPN. “I’m not a racist. Never have been, never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.”
She expounded on those statements Monday morning, releasing a statement that read: “Our family is devastated by the racist comments made by my estranged husband. My children and I do not share these despicable views or prejudices. We will not let one man’s small mindedness poison the spirit of the fans and accomplishments of the team in the city we love. We are doing everything in our power to stand by and support our Clippers team.”
Stiviano’s lawyer released a statement Sunday afternoon that stated the tapes carrying the alleged voices of Stiviano and Sterling were “legitimate.” The quotes came from approximately an hour’s worth of recorded conversation that Stiviano says she did not leak to the media.
Rivers said before the game he had not spoken to Sterling and had no current plans to.
“I’ve not talked to Donald yet,” Rivers said. “Really no need right now, at least for me.”
Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who, like Rivers, played for the Clippers, said he could not coach or work for the Clippers knowing what he knows now about Sterling.
“I cannot right now,” Jackson said. “Knowing the mentality, I cannot. With that being said, let me double back. There are people, successful people, who would answer that question and say no, that’s working for folks today.”
Paul, however, said it’s not difficult playing for Sterling in light of the controversy.
“No, no, because, I mean, it’s about those guys in the locker room, our guys, our teammates,” Paul said. “We prepare. We’ve been through training camp and stuff like that, and this is what we love to do.”
Rivers said he understood Magic Johnson and many fans saying they would not be attending Clippers games as long as Sterling is the owner and would understand if the Clippers’ 137-game sellout streak was snapped for Tuesday’s Game 5 because of the backlash.
“I would understand,” Rivers said. “I hope not. We need them. I can tell you that. We need everybody. We play for them. We always have. So we do need them. We’re going to need them bad on Tuesday. We’re going to need them there. We’re going to need them in our corner. But, listen, I get all of it. Like I said to the gentlemen, someone wants to do it another way, I get that, too, and I have no problem with that either.”
Added Paul, on returning to Staples Center for Game 5 on Tuesday night: “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what it is going to be like. Because our fans have been amazing all season long, and obviously I hope that it will be the same. You just never know. They’ve been amazing, and we wouldn’t be where we are without them. But it’s tough.”